By Nandita Bose and Steve Holland
U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday held out hope for an agreement on his major spending plans before attending a climate summit in Scotland, while the White House said Democratic negotiators were closing in on a deal.
“Let’s get this done. Let’s move!” said Biden.
Biden visited New Jersey to sell his “Build Back Better” agenda after talks on Sunday with moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, whose vote is critical to the package, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a fellow Democrat.
With negotiators zeroing in on a tax on billionaires to pay for the legislation, Biden used a speech in Kearny, New Jersey, to criticize past Republican plans that largely benefited the wealthy, and the economic theory that if people at the top did well, everyone would benefit.
“I’m tired of ‘trickle-down’,” said Biden.
Whatever the final pricetag ends up being, the legislation will be paid for, Biden said.
“You hear these numbers, $3.5 trillion, $1.7 trillion – we pay for it all. It doesn’t increase the deficit one single cent. So let’s get to work,” he said.
Democrats are seeking to coalesce around two key pieces of legislation – an up-to-$2 trillion social spending and climate change package and a $1 trillion infrastructure bill – to make good on Biden’s campaign promises.
Manchin, one of two Democratic holdouts along with Senator Kyrsten Sinema, told reporters at the Capitol that he believed a deal on a framework for the social spending bill could be reached this week. But he remained opposed to spending more than $1.5 trillion.
Manchin said he supported the idea of a tax on the nation’s roughly 700 billionaires to fund the programs.
“I support basically everyone paying their fair share of taxes,” he said. “I’m open to any type of thing that makes people pay that’s not paying now.”
The prolonged debate on the spending plans comes as Biden prepares to attend two major summits: a G20 gathering of world leaders in Rome that starts on Saturday and a climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, kicking off on Sunday.
Biden expressed a desire for a deal before he leaves on Thursday.
“That’s my hope,” Biden told reporters as he departed Wilmington in his home state of Delaware en route to neighboring New Jersey.
The White House said Biden was not concerned he might have to leave the country without the legislative work completed, saying he could still work on the issues while on the road.
“We believe we’re going to get it done and we’re making progress every day,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One.
Biden visited an elementary school in Plainfield, New Jersey, to promote provisions of his plan, and was to deliver a speech later in the Newark area before returning to Washington.
House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday said a vote on the infrastructure package was planned for this week after Democrats reach an agreement on the other budget measure.
Biden said the weekend discussions were productive but some issues remain.
“It went well,” he told reporters before the New Jersey events. Democrats have a few more things to work out, Biden said, “but it went well.”